Migrant rescues put ships in crossfire
Unrest as calls to end rescue efforts could impact merchant ships.
Insight: SOLAS migrant rescues catch ships in political crossfire
Recent European agreement on sea rescues of illegal or ‘irregular’ migrants in the Mediterranean has put the shipping industry in a precarious position.
At a meeting of EU home affairs ministers, concerns were expressed that search-and-rescue (SAR) operations in the Mediterranean were acting as “a pull factor” for illegal migration, a statement from the UK’s Home Office said, adding that the operations “should be brought to a well-publicised end”.
Ships, meeting their obligations under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), are playing a key role in rescues, with the Italian coastguard calling on the assistance of 436 ships this year alone. Rescues delay ships usually for a day or more, and put crews at risk of disease and sometimes violence from anxious survivors. There is also the risk of terrorism, with no procedures in place for scanning those who come aboard the ship for weapons.
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